Harley and The Davidsons (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 4, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Harley and the Davidsons” is a fascinating and enjoyable miniseries about the founding of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and showing us the challenges that William Harley and the Davidson brothers had when making the company, trying to make the company successful during rough times and also creating and protecting the company’s legacy. I absolutely enjoyed the series and definitely recommend it!
TITLE: Harley and the Davidsons
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 3 Episodes/236 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:78:1), English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Lions Gate
RATED: Not Rated
RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2016
Directed by Claran Donnelly, Stephen Kay
Written by Seth Fisher, Nick Schenk, Evan Wright
Produced by Peter McAleese
Executive Producer: Dimitri Doganis, Ciaran Donnelly, John Goldwyn, Evan Wright, Seth Fisher
Co-Executive Producer: Michael Fischler, Tony Mark, Nick Schenk, Piers Vellacott
Post Producer: Dan Bentham
Line Producer: Jayson de Rosner
Music by Mateo Messina
Cinematography by Balazs Bolygo
Edited by Andrew MacRitchie, Oral Norrie Ottey
Casting by Laray Mayfield, Sasha Robertson, Julie Schubert, Sara Trevis
Production Design by Tom Conroy
Art Direction by Adrian Curelea, Serban Porupca, Vlad Roseanu
Set Decoration by Gina Calin, Andreea Hillerin, Anca Rafan
Costume Design by Gersha Phillips
Michiel Huisman as Walter Davidson
Bug Hall as Arthur Davidson
Robert Aramayo as Bill Harley
Annie Read as Caroline Jachthuber
Essa O’Shea as Clara Davidson
Daniel Coonan as Big Bill Davidson
Rufus Wright as CH Lang
Ed Birch as Joe Harley
Philip Brodie as George Hendee
Olimpia Melinte as May
Jane Slavin as Mary Harley
Hera Hilmar as Emma
Gabriel Luna as Eddie Hasha
Tommy Bastow as Otto Walker
Alex Shaffer as Shrimp Burns
Wilson Bethel as Ray Weishaar
Stephen Rider as William Johnson
Dougray Scott as Randall James
Sean Scully as Walter C. Davidson
Harley and the Davidsons charts the birth of this iconic bike during a time of great social and technological change beginning at the turn of the 20th century. Walter, Arthur, and Bill risked their entire fortunes and livelihoods to launch the budding enterprise. Each of these men faced very different challenges, but it was the motorcycle that united their dreams and ambitions.
Harley-Davidson Motor Company is no doubt an iconic brand in America.
As one of the two major American motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression, Harley-Davidson is an American success story, having began in 1903 and continue to be a brand in which people expect quality.
But what makes Harley-Davidson so iconic? And who are the people who founded Harley-Davidson Motor Company?
This is what directors Cliaran Donnelly and Stephen Kay and writers Nick Schenk, Evan Wright and Seth Fisher wanted to showcase in their three-episode television miniseries “Harley and the Davidsons” which aired on the Discovery Channel.
The series stars Michiel Huisman (“The Age of Adaline”, “Wild”, “World War Z”), Bug Hall (“Little Rascals”, “The Stupids”, “Hone, We Shrunk Ourselves”), Robert Aramayo (“Game of Thrones”, “Nocturnal Animals”), Annie Read (“Fatty”), Essa O’Shea (“Re/Collection”), Daniel Coonan (“Ripper 2: Letter from Within”, “EastEnders”), Rufus Wright (“Quantum of Solace”, “Spy Game”, “45 Years”), Gabriel Luna (“Transpecos”, “Freeheld”, “Bernie”), Stephen Rider (“Daredevil”, “Safe House”, “The Host”) and more.
The series begins in 1903 as we are introduced to the series protagonists.
Walter Davidson is a farm owner who is forced to transfer his farm and land to the C.M.P. Railroad and decides to return back home.
At home, Arthur Davidson is a young man trying to make a name for himself. His family are hardworking people and his mother is strict with him to make sure he does a job that is real and legal. Meanwhile, his good friend Bill Harley is a smart person who dreams of going to college to become an engineer.
With both young men trying to make a name for themselves, with Bill Harley’s engineering smarts and Arthur Davidson’s ability to market, the two would join forces to create a bike with an engine, using a Flying Merkel bicycle frame and a homemade engine. But to make it happen, they needed money and so Arthur turned to his brother Walter and Walter who loved the concept, would eventually finance the development of the motorbike and join forces with the two.
But it wasn’t always easy as Indian Motor Company had brand reputation and a wealthy backer to have its bikes in many dealerships, the new established Harley-Davidson Motor Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin needed a huge push? How would William Harley and the Davidson brothers find a way to get the name of their motorbike known among bike enthusiasts?
In episode two, after a major tragedy, the company finds a new rival with new successor to Indian Motorcycles, engineer Randell James and it would become a major battle between Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Indian Motorcycles. Especially with World War I looming and also a major lawsuit.
For the final third episode, the series takes a look at the Great Depression and the challenges that lay ahead for William Harley, Arthur and Walter Davidson, now older and having families. And Walter having to deal with his rebellious son, Walter Jr. but also creating their next ambitious motorcycle known as “The Knucklehead” and also meeting African American motorcycle racer, William B. Johnson and more.
“Harley and The Davidsons” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The TV series looks absolutely fantastic as closeups show great detail. Outdoor scenes look very good and for the most part, for a TV series, “Harley and The Davidsons” looks good in HD!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Harley and The Davidsons” is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The series is primarily dialogue drive and for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear through the front channels.
Subtitles are in English SDH.
“Harley and the Davidsons” comes with the following special features:
- The Making of Harley and the Davidsons – (6:41) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Harley and the Davidsons”.
- Biketacular – (40:37) A special episode of “Biketacular” about the top 20 motorcycles of all time.
“Harley and the Davidsons” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet code. Also, included are both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the series.
For anyone interested or are curious about the people behind the iconic motorcycle brand, “Harley-Davidson Motor Company”, will no doubt find the Discover Channel miniseries “Harley and the Davidsons” to be fascinating, intriguing and inspirational.
But it’s important for people to know that while many of the situations featured in the series are true, there are also many scenes that were dramatized and for the most part, the series is not 100% accurate but the writers did a great job in researching for the making of the series.
First, let’s discuss what makes this series so awesome!
Everyone loves an underdog, rags-to-riches storyline and in this case, the story about William Harley, Arthur and Walter Davidson is inspiring.
William Harley is intelligent and dreams of getting into college to become an engineer but for he and his good friend Arthur, the two have always been interested in becoming bigger men, becoming successful and doing something positive for their family. William Harley has always been inspired by the idea of making a motorbike and so, with his designs and Arthur’s drive of wanting to become successful and using his marketing and sales skills, the two join forces and eventually start pitching their idea and designs, but just need the money in order to make it happen.
This is where Walter Davidson comes in. Walter, a farmer and landowner is forced to sell his farm and land to a railroad company and because he was able to make money through the sale of his property, he funds his brother and friend, William’s idea of creating the engine to make a motor bike.
And as Harley and the Davidson brothers struggle to create a motorbike, it becomes even more of a struggle to go against the rich and to create a bike that would rival the technology of the best selling bike in America, Indian Motorcycles.
The series introduces us to how the group began Harley-Davidson Motor Company and the struggles they faced earlier on. How Walter became the President of the company, Arthur responsible as the sales manager and William Harley as visionary inventor and engineer.
The series also shows the immense competition between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles and facing a major lawsuit that could end the company.
Showing us how Walter met his wife Emma Rosenheim at a bar, how Arthur met his wife Clara Biesel and how William met the love of his life, his wife and his biggest supporter, Anna Jachthuber.
But also the future, as the trio have families to raise but with a new generation of motorcycle enthusiasts, trying to create something for the new generation.
The three episodes featured are enjoyable and also addictive. Three episodes full of excitement, motorcycle racing and really showing great care and love to the iconic brand and people’s commitment of creating a quality motorcycle, “Harley and the Davidsons” is no doubt a great series for those who enjoy motorcycling and also the history of the iconic brand and the people behind the brand.
There are a few things about the series that I do question. For one, while there was no doubt a rivalry between Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Indian Motorcycles, the series really goes far to show how much of a rivalry the two had. And the character of Randell James is fictional, so episode two which is based on the rivalry between Indian Motorcycles Randell James or George Hendee and Harley-Davidson, it’s not known which parts are dramatized and are true.
Also, another Davidson brother is not shown with much importance, despite being a co-founder and that’s William A. Davidson. While Walter is shown giving money made from his farm and land and William is shown as the stern brother, William quit his high paying job from the Milwaukee Road Railroad and was the man responsible for purchasing the machining tools and presses.
And part of the reason for quality within Harley-Davidson was because the closeness he had with his employees. So, it’s a bit unfortunate that the series doesn’t include him as much as the other two Davidsons and that his role in the series was limited.
And if there was one thing I wished the series did, was to show what happened to each of the protagonists at the end credits. The series touches upon a few things in regards to the success of Harley-Davidson Motor company but doesn’t go into what happened to William Harley or Arthur Davidson.
But despite that, there is still a lot of factual things included in the series, from the early struggle of trying of the company and the challenge that Harley and the Davidsons had. But also the family dynamics, how William Johnson became the first African American to own a Harley-Davidson Motor Company dealership, how Eddie Hasha was a popular racer who had close ties with the Harley-Davidson crew, their racers Otto Walker, Ray Weishaar, Shrimp Burns and more.
But overall, the series is wonderfully acted, well-written and thoroughly researched. Sure, it’s dramatized and not 100% accurate but still, a lot went into the making of the series and I was impressed. I really enjoyed watching all three episodes!
On Blu-ray, “Harley and the Davidsons” looks great on Blu-ray and I didn’t notice any compression artifacts during my viewing of the series. Soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and is dialogue-driven and crystal clear through the front channels. While there are only two special features, you do get a making of and a full episode of “Biketacular”.
Overall, “Harley and the Davidsons” is a fascinating and enjoyable miniseries about the founding of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and showing us the challenges that William Harley and the Davidson brothers had when making the company, trying to make the company successful during rough times and also creating and protecting the company’s legacy. I absolutely enjoyed the series and definitely recommend it!
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